It sure does – although the winter months have passed now. July was the coldest with a mixture of icy cold winds, frost, high humidity or heavy rains. Often, clothes from the closet would need m be placed near a floor heater before they could be worn as they just too damp from the humidity. Temperatures in these parts don’t get much below 0ºC, but the people do suffer the cold since the houses aren’t heated. The older people find the winters especially difficult.
During these past few months, I’ve had a chance to appreciate Chilean life a little more by: trying out empanadas and bread baked in an outdoor clay oven; making bread and baking it over a grill; trying my hand at the horse and plough; and visiting more families in their homes. These families live across the river. It’s a poorer community; the houses are older and drafty with dirt floors and no electricity. They’re also somewhat isolated during the rainy season as the roads are impassable. However, the people and their hospitality were great and I’m looking forward to going back there sometime.
September 18th is Chile’s Independence Day and it is celebrated in a big way in both the cities and the country. Houses are decorated, flags raised, empanadas prepared and shelters called "Ramadas" are set up everywhere for folk dancing. "La Cueca" (pronounced Kway’ka), their national dance, is the most popular at this time. There are also parades and other activities which are spread out over the week and all school age kids are home during this time from classes.
A number of improvements have been made over the past year which is encouraging to see as the school’s aim is to be more self sufficient.
A couple new greenhouses have been set up by the students for growing tomatoes. It’s providing good practical experience, along with the planting and care of a variety of fruit trees, almond trees, and raspberries… (mmmmm…..). The amount of poultry has increased and as temperatures warmed up the garden too has expanded with some organic gardening practices being started. Eucalyptus trees have been started also, to replace the hundreds that were washed away this winter when the river behind the school property flooded eating away at its banks.
I’ve been digging into some Spanish agricultural books and was able to start a couple of projects with the students; been able to assist a few with their studies (other than English), and am continuing to help others with guitar playing and music in general. This, along with being involved in youth groups, has in turn helped me advance with the language even more – mainly because people have been extra-patient. The better I learn the language the most I can contribute (I guess it’s two way street).
Construction of the new kitchen, dining and storage rooms, as well as a new study hall is near completion. The school year too is almost at a close and students will be leaving for home my mid-December for summer holidays.
YOU ARE THE VINE, WE ARE THE BRANCHES (John 15)
The months of July and August were a time of pruning the grapevines, fruit trees, roses… and just about everything. Another stage of pruning in October, as new shoots were springing forth. In July, I started going through numerous little trials. I guess I was being pruned as well. Here’s a few things I’ve picked up from the vineyard on pruning!
When pruning or training, one is always looking for the following: whether or not the plant is strong (ie. It has vigor); if it’s diseased; the form it’s taking; and condition it’s in from past management. A vine well managed, will produce fruit for many years. A vine left to itself, bears smaller and smaller fruit of poorer quality.
Also, during this time, the old loose wood was scraped off the stem of the vine to prevent the red spider from finding a home beneath it and thereby causing damage and disease from entering the plant. The younger, smoother wood was found below, and since the spider can’t stand the heat of the sun, and has no place to hide, it flees.
Poor management in the past, requires more pruning in the present, but only a little is done at a time, slowly replacing a badly formed vine with better and more productive wood.
So too with our lives! We are like the branches; Jesus being the vine. The Father (gardener), is always interested in us becoming strong branches and bearing good fruit by our lives to those around us. We will regularly need to be pruned back for greater strength, to bear better fruit (as the cargadór), and will always need renewal, in Christ, for our lives (as the pitón). By allowing pruning and good management we’ll bear better fruit for a greater number of years.
To be strong Christians, our lives need to be centered (the straight stem) on Christ – who is the source of our strength. We need good mainline (steering arms of branches) to him (prayer) and as a result, a lot of new life (shoots) (good attitudes, works, relationships …etc.) will naturally spring forth on every side, through our talents (the productive healthy wood). If we dare to deviate from the center, with our negative or selfish attitudes or actions, we may produce fruit but will have lost strength, as it takes longer for His nourishment to reach us (as the crooked stem and unproductive wood near the center).
At times we may feel like we’re being scraped of our bad habits and sins, which seem to cling so tightly (old wood), but which can only lead to sickness (of body, mind or spirit) if they remain. Only by allowing them to be removed and exposing ourselves to the “Son” can further damage be prevented and healing take place.
It’s good to know that He’s a gentle loving God, who doesn’t cut us all up but prunes wisely, a little at a time, knowing just how much we can bare. Little by little, he draws us nearer to the center renewing us, strengthening us, replacing our old ways for better, more fruitful, life-giving ways. May we all draw nearer to God this Christmas, looking at Jesus, who is our example, and may we go into the New Year more alive, more clearly focussed on the direction of our lives and better strengthened to serve Him and those around us.